Egg Salad Spinach “Wraps”

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Our hens are currently producing 18-22 eggs a day right now and the majority of those get hardboiled and made into either pickled eggs or this delicious egg salad which we eat for lunch almost everyday.  We’ve also got plenty of spinach which we planted last fall and overwintered.  We were lucky that it survived the -10F temperatures that we had more than a few times this past winter!  It’s already growing prolifically and we have been eating spinach salads a couple times a week since April 1st and I love using the larger leaves to make these egg salad “wraps”.

Basic Egg Salad (I make a HUGE BATCH of this 2-3 times a week and just keep it in the fridge to munch on..)

  • 12 hardboiled eggs, very finely chopped …click here to learn how I make hardboiled eggs from fresh eggs
  • 1 LARGE onion, very finely chopped
  •  4-5 stalks of celery, very finely chopped
  • about 1/4 cup homemade mayo, more or less….click here for my recipe
  • a few tablespoons of relish, Famous Dave’s Signature Spicy Pickle Relish is my favorite!
  • Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

Chop everything up, mix it all together, place on spinach leaves..I also garnished with a few squirts of homegrown homemade hot sauce and a few dashes of our homegrown homemade dry aged paprika powder!  To eat it, just pick it up kind of pinch-folded sorta like a taco and chow down :D

 

Spinachplots

our happy spinach plots

The Jist of IT

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There is a pattern to the rise and fall of civilizations.  Those that are meant to be great begin first with immense freedom and the foundation of hard physical work that maintains that freedom, this produces great wealth and abundance which always leads to decadence and corruption, some civilizations get there faster than others, but the result is always the same.  This decadence and corruption leads to increased tyranny over a people that are, at their basic heart lazy, doubleminded, and self-serving…duplicitous liars desiring to “have their cake and eat it too.”

This is only natural, if a people have lost their ability to rule themselves in a moral and ethical way then they, by default, require a tyrant to rule over them.  The chosen tyrant is always a reflection of the people, if society has abandoned it’s work ethic and moral acuity, the proper foundation of all great societies, and at it’s core has become decayed and rotten, then the tyrant that rules over them will be of the same.  You get what you give, you reap what you sow.  What happens in each personal life, every decision made by each individual is reflected as a whole in the society in which that person lives. This works for good decisions as well as bad, you can change society just by choosing to do the right thing!

  “For there is nothing covered, that shall not be revealed; neither hid, that shall not be known.
Therefore whatsoever ye have spoken in darkness shall be heard in the light; and that which ye have spoken into the ear in closets shall be proclaimed upon the housetops.”

-Luke 12:2-3

Amidst this corruption and decay, God always reserves for Himself a Remnant.  This Remnant, in growing degrees that correlates with the rising tide of corruption and depravity stands resolute and unflinching against the flood of evil that encompasses it on all sides and from the heart of this Remnant he raises up for Himself a Standard.  The Standard being the judgement against them, showing them the example of what they could have been had they chosen to do things the right way, His Way.

 “And judgment is turned away backward, and justice standeth afar off: for truth is fallen in the street, and equity cannot enter.
Yea, truth faileth; and he that departeth from evil maketh himself a prey: and the LORD saw it, and it displeased him that there was no judgment.
And he saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no intercessor: therefore his arm brought salvation unto him; and his righteousness, it sustained him.
For he put on righteousness as a breastplate, and an helmet of salvation upon his head; and he put on the garments of vengeance for clothing, and was clad with zeal as a cloke.
According to their deeds, accordingly he will repay, fury to his adversaries and recompence to his enemies..
So shall they fear the name of the LORD from the west, and his glory from the rising of the sun. When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.
And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob, saith the LORD.
As for me, this is my covenant with them, saith the LORD; My spirit that is upon thee, and my words which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, saith the LORD, from henceforth and for ever.”  -Isaiah 59:14-21

Once this Standard is risen up it almost always signals the start of the countdown to the end for that civilization, very rarely do they cease and desist from their wicked ways and turn back back the tide of evil.  Even those that are “on the fence” because of the pride, envy, jealousy in their hearts at seeing the example/judgement of The Standard, they turn against The Remnant out of spite because pride won’t let them admit that they were incorrect, that they made the wrong choice…they refuse to repent.

  “I know thy works, that thou art neither cold nor hot: I would thou wert cold or hot.
So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.
Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and knowest not that thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.”         -Revelation 3:15-17

This is the purpose of The Standard, to force the undecided to choose and, more often than not, they quite naturally choose the wide and easy straight path to destruction (no surprise there). Becoming ever more entrenched and obstinate in their wrong-doing (the Bible calls this being “stiffnecked”), creating an ever-consuming  divide between themselves and the Remnant that soon reaches a point where it can no longer be reconciled, and thus begins war.

The warfare that was already raging in the spiritual between the forces of good and evil manifests into the physical world because faith, whether faith in God or faith in this evil world system run by Satan, by it’s very definition requires action.  The Remnant Standard-bearer ever increasing in light in-step with the ever increasing darkness becomes so bright that the debased and depraved society surrounding it can no longer withstand that brightness, their eyes burning and their faces reddened, they seek with an incessant hunger to destroy all those that bear the light of God within their souls.  And as all wars go this eventually leads to economic hardship/collapse and ruination of the land and infrastructure which then leads to famine and disease which leads to MASS DEATH and once the dust settles The Remnant begins the rebuild and the cycle begins anew.

 …”BUT before all this, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you, delivering you up to the synagogues, and into prisons, being brought before kings and rulers for my name’s sake. And shall turn to you for a testimony.
Settle it therefore in your hearts, not to meditate before what ye shall answer:
For I will give you a mouth and wisdom, which all your adversaries shall not be able to gainsay nor resist.
And ye shall be betrayed both by parents, and brethren, and kinsfolks, and friends; and some of you shall they cause to be put to death.
And ye shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake.
But there shall not an hair of your head perish.
In your patience possess ye your souls.” - Luke 21:12-19

When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.

When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the LORD shall lift up a standard against him.

What It Means To Be A Living Sacrifice

“I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.” – Romans 12:1-2

Being a homesteader there have been more than a few times that I have come across people in my daily living who, when they find out about the kind of life that I lead, often say something along the lines of “Wow, you’re living my dream!”  OR “I always wanted to live a life like that but….” and then they proceed to give me any number of excuses as to why it never happened…and the conversation often ends there ’cause I don’t wanna hear excuses…nothing annoys me more than excuses or complaining! :roll:

The real reason that most of the people who express this “dream” of living in the country never make it a reality is because they are not willing to sacrifice what they have right now to receive something that they want more…in other words, they just don’t want it bad enough.   And in the process are simply lying to themselves and to me when they say “Wow, you’re living my dream!” …if it really was your dream then it would be your reality, it’s as simple as that :grin:

When Nathan and I were dating we came down to West Virginia to visit a friend of his that lived here, that was the first time I had ever been here and I immediately fell in love with the area.  Nathan, who had been here numerous times before, already loved the area and had expressed his desire to eventually move here one day.  Fast forward 3 months into the future, we were newly married one month and had just found out we were pregnant with our first child which gave us a three year time limit to fulfill our dream of moving to West Virginia…our reasoning being that most children do not remember things that happen from before the age of three and we didn’t want our son to remember Maryland at all :lol:

First thing we did was pay off the $5,000 in school debt that Nathan still had, our goal was to have it paid off before our son was born and we exceeded that goal by paying it off a whole month before his birth.  And we have not ever had any debt again, even to this very day!  After we paid it off I quit work and prepared for my new job, that of being a stay at home mom.

Our society is not one that favors single income households so I have always fully realized the precariousness of my situation, I don’t just STAY at home I work my ASS OFF at home….it was no different when we still lived in Maryland in a tiny apartment paying $600/mo. rent on a $10 an hour income, which was what Nathan made working at McDonald’s at the time.  During the time that we were saving money to move to West Virginia we rarely spent money (and that is key!) except for on the absolute necessities…rent, water, electric, food, transportation, laundry (we didn’t have a washer and dryer but our apartment complex had a small laundrymat that you had to pay to use), and internet in that order. (we didn’t have a phone, no need when you’ve got e-mail…we also didn’t have cable TV…)

The first thing we did was sell one of our cars, we each had our own car when we got married but went down to just one to save money….those insurance costs can really eat up the income! The car we kept was used mainly for Nathan to drive to work for the most part…regular errands like grocery shopping were done by me while Nathan was at work…a five minute shortcut through the woods next to our apartment complex put me right at the back lot of our local grocery store, I would strap our son into the baby carrier and we were off!   Because we were poor, and not too prideful to admit it, we did seek government assistance in the form of WIC (however we have never had food stamps or been on welfare and got off WIC the moment we moved to West Virginia) which gave LARGE amounts of free food to breastfeeding mothers….eggs, milk, cheese, beans, boxed cereal, peanut butter, tuna etc.   PLUS Nathan worked at a restaurant, he was an opener which meant he had to be there at 4:00 a.m. but that worked out well because it also meant that 5 days out of the week he got two free meals a day…breakfast and lunch he always ate at work.

Plus, I was an extreme couponer long before there was a TV show.  I only had one child at the time with PLENTY of extra time for things like coupon clipping and matching them with the sales and store coupons to save obscene amounts of money.  My best ever was getting $88.00 worth of groceries for about ten bucks…but on average I almost always saved at least 60% and often times much more than that.  We obsessively budgeted our money, and I was allotted only $25 a week for groceries but it was always more than enough! ($6 of that $25 was also spent on diapers, we didn’t do cloth diapers till child #2 came along..)

During the time that we were saving money to move to West Virginia we never ate out (except for the free meals Nathan got from work), we never spent money on entertainment…no movie theater, no movie or video game buying/rentals (however we did go to the movies once on our anniversary and we budgeted for it three months in advance lol), no buying books, toys, gadgets or other frivolous things.  Entertainment for us was getting books and movies for free from the library and we went fishing a lot, and if we were successful, and we often were, it also meant a free meal!

We didn’t buy new clothes or bunches of stuff  for our apartment.  We had one sofa that we bought for $50 from the thrift store and a small desk for Nathan’s computer which we paid $20 for from the same thrift store.  We were fortunate that my parents had extra furniture which they gave to us and Nathan’s mom also purchased a bunch of home goods for us as a wedding gift when we first got married.  Our wedding cost us a total of $80 by the way, you can read about that here.  We also did dumpster diving, our apartment complex always had people constantly moving in and out and most of the time they would take a good chunk of their furniture and just dump it right beside the dumpster…we got everything from free lamps, end tables, coffee tables, bookshelves, a free desk, a very nice piano keyboard, fans, dishes, pots and pan,  and more…plus we still have most of that stuff! :lol:

The apartment complex that we lived at, Forsythia Court Apartments you can even visit their website, had single story apartments with small patios and a postage stamp sized patch of grass.  We dug up our patch of grass and turned it into a garden, and we kept the land lady and her secretary well supplied with garden fresh tomatoes so they didn’t mind at all ;-)  You can read more about that in my post “Homestead Economics“.  So, for part of the year, we didn’t even need to buy fresh vegetables, saving us even more money on the grocery bill!

Eventually we moved from the apartment complex and sacrificed having a garden for cheaper rent and a larger apartment.  A very kind older Christian lady rented us a 1,000 sq.ft. 2 bedroom apartment in Havre De Grace for only $585 a month and that included the price of electricity and water, plus it came with a washer and dryer!   We only lived there for a year though, 6 months after our second son was born, when our first son was 2 1/2 years old, we found on the internet a 2,000 sq.ft. “fixer upper” on 1/4 acre of land in West Virginia for only $5,000 and we jumped on it.  We traveled down to look at it one weekend and the very next weekend we went back and bought it in full with cash, after spending a month cleaning and fixing it up we moved down there and we still own that place as well as our current place with 9 acres of land.  No longer having a rent payment meant that we could live off of even less money than before which gave Nathan the freedom to now stay at home and start up our E-Bay business which eventually became quite successful.  So successful that in a matter of four years we were able to save up enough money to buy our current place debt free :D

I tell you ALL of this to show that in order to achieve your “dream” you must be willing to sacrifice.  People seldom achieve their “dream” of living in the country because they are not willing to work hard and make sacrifices of what they have in the present in order to possess something greater in the future…this is what Paul means by becoming a living sacrifice.  Nothing is off limits, everything is used as a means by which you can achieve your “dream”.  Our living sacrifice transformed us into what we are now, nothing is ever achieved for free or by “faith”…faith by it’s very definition requires action..  you may have faith and I have works, show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works (James 2:18).  It is not an easy road, that is for sure, but is anything worth having ever easy??

Waking The Fallen

I have been a huge fan of the band Avenged Sevenfold for going on 11 years now.  I love their music.  They are purehearted, original, and true to their core…although most of their songs are about religion and especially about dealing with the human condition here on earth and taking vengeance against evil, I wouldn’t necessarily call them “christian” for they are much more universal than that, many of their songs profess belief in God and in being an eternal being and that all darkness will become light.  Politically, they are not liberal commie democrats and the lead singer M.Shadows has said that he is a republican, they’ve also done more than a few politically charged songs as well.  My most favorite album of theirs is “Waking The Fallen” it was the first of theirs that I ever owned and it came out in 2003…I have every line memorized, every melody, every guitar solo, every part of it I know through and through by heart.  The first three songs on that album are “Waking The Fallen” and “Unholy Confessions” and “Chapter 4″ which begins with the awakening of the soul to full consciousness and then from there goes into God’s sorrow and love for the sin tainted creatures that his creation has become.

1. Waking The Fallen

Wake the Ones and rise tonight
Fallen souls we shine so bright
Rise now and ever
forgotten memories
No one can touch us
(This is the awakening of the souls, fallen in the eyes of The World, but now they will shine so bright…Chosen now and forever, no one can touch us.)

2. Unholy Confessions

“I’ll try,” she said as he walked away.
“Try not to lose you.”
Two vibrant hearts could change.
Nothing tears the being more than deception,
unmasked fear.
“I’ll be here waiting tested and secure.”

(Throughout scripture the relationship between God and His Chosen Beloved is often symbolically represented by a woman and her man, Jesus and The Church, it is no different here…The Chosen Beloved is the “she” and God is the “he”.
“Two vibrant hearts could change. Nothing tears the being more that deception, unmasked fear” – a reference to the earthly human condition we find ourselves in and have to battle through, which is our test. God The Creator, often referred to throughout their lyrics as “One” or “The One” selects those of his own who are birthed into this earthly existence to be tested. In a sense dropping us off and walking away, the test being that we must find our way back to him, and in the process of doing so not lose him, not selling out to The World System and losing our souls along The Way. When he returns His Chosen Beloved will be here waiting for him “tested and secure”)

Nothing hurts my world,
just affects the ones around me
When sin’s deep in my blood,
you’ll be the one to fall.

(This whole pre-chorus is His Chosen Beloved speaking about her experience in this earthly existence and even though she is covered in sin she will be redeemed while all others fall.)

I wish I could be the one,
the one who won’t care at all
But being the one on the stand,
I know the way to go, no one’s guiding me.
When time soaked with blood turns its back,
I know it’s hard to fall.
Confided in me was your heart
I know it’s hurting you, but it’s killing me.

(This is the “Unholy Confession” which is God speaking his mind about humanity and the test which His Chosen Beloved must endure on the earthly plane. Being the one on the stand, either as witness with the testimony ..The Son speaking to The Father…or as a judge I am not sure, he knows the way to go no one is guiding him because he is God and he knows what he is doing…in essence, the test is hurting her, but it’s killing him, literally for he died for our sins…it’s is painful for both parties, even so, the test must continue.)

Nothing will last in this life,
our time is spent constructing,
now you’re perfecting a world… meant to sin.
Constrict your hands around me,
squeeze till I cannot breathe,
this air tastes dead inside me,
contribute to our plague.
Break all your promises,
tear down this steadfast wall,
restraints are useless here,
tasting salvation’s near.

(This is His Chosen Beloved speaking now to The World System built on this earthly plane, she has passed the test, she is fully awake.)

3. Chapter Four (as in Genesis Chapter 4, the story of Cain and Abel)

Give me your hand,
Blood is spilt and man will follow
Infernal man, punishment too great to bear
(Conceived and born was one of light
Rain and dark, the other born black knight)

Raise your head and taste the courage (the one of light)
Fall from grace, unholy knight

I’ve come here to kill you,
Won’t leave until you’ve died
Murder born of vengeance,
I close my brother’s eyes tonight… -This is Cain speaking of Abel

Give me your hand,
Blood is spilt and man will follow
Infernal man, punishment too great to bear
(Conceived and born was one of light
Rain and dark, the other born black knight)

Raise your head and taste the courage (the one of light)
Fall from grace, unholy knight

I’ve come here to kill you,
Won’t leave until you’ve died
Murder born of vengeance,
I close my brother’s eyes tonight… - Cain speaking of Abel

It’s cold tonight as the clouds turn grey
And from my hands to my brother’s grave
You took his side, you took his gift,
Feel the power of a fallen man, crestfallen man… - Cain Speaking to God

Far away in this land I must go,
Out of the sight of The One.
A punishment sent from his hand
A hardship that no one should know. - Cain speaking

Now go out of the sight of The One,
Away in this land you must go.

Where has he gone? What have you done?
A voice commands from high above this earth.
From the soil his blood cries out to me
Murder, liar, vengeance, deceit. -This God speaking to Cain after he murders Abel

Far away in this land I must go
Out of the sight of the One
A punishment sent from his hands
A hardship that no one should know – Cain Speaking

Now go out of the sight of the One
Away in this land you must go.

Spring Done Sprang

When I tap a maple tree I usually drill into the tree on the south-facing side of the trunk at a level about three feet above the ground using a 1/2 inch drill bit aimed upward into the tree at a 45 degree angle.  After the hole is drilled I then tap the spile into the tree using a rubber mallet.  You pick your time wisely, no matter the time you choose, the sap will run for 6 weeks before the hole begins to heal up, so you pick the time when daytime temperatures are above freezing and nighttime temperatures are below freezing on a pretty regular basis, even if this doesn’t happen the sap will still run but not as plentiful or quickly…which means that early to mid-March is usually the best time of the year for us to tap the trees.

Sap can be used in a number of ways, not just for maple syrup.  You can drink it “as is” straight from the tree, it is full of delicious enzymes and minerals, tastes mostly like water with a slight sweetness. When you boil off the water to make syrup, at about the halfway point of boiling when the sap is starting to take on a brownish color from the concentration of the sugar but is still quite watery, this type of “sap” is awesome for making coffee and every year it is a real gourmet treat that I always look forward to..I am enjoying a cup of “sap coffee” even as I type this :D

a tall cold glass of sap!

a tall cold glass of sap!

The weather has been nice and sunny, the ground warmed and drying out from the recent snow melts, and so we have been digging ground and planting.  Thus far we have planted fava beans, mache, onion sets for green onions, peas, some radishes and some lettuce…nothing has sprouted as of yet though.  Of them all, fava beans are definitely my favorite and one of the most interesting early season crops.  Like beans, they will grow in almost any soil, even poor soil, but unlike beans they prefer cooler temperatures not over 75F but will live all the way down to 15F.  They will sprout in soil temperatures less than 40F when most other plants will not, the seed is also big and easy to handle making it ideal for toddlers to help in the planting.  Also it is unusual looking, growing about three feet tall with many black and white blossoms..here, planted in March at 1-2 inches deep and 8-12 inches apart, it will give it a crop around mid-late May and then in early June I usually pull them out and put okra there or sometimes more beans.  This year, however, I am trying something new, it will be late season potatoes that replace the favas to be harvested in mid October right before the frosts hit.

the hand of my 3 year old daughter, planting a fava bean seed

the hand of my 3 year old daughter, Charity, planting a fava bean seed

freshly dug, the ground awakens

freshly dug, the ground awakens

There is also the matter of some chickens that need to die, half-breeds that we will not breed and must die before we begin to collect eggs for incubating and hatching.  Every year we hatch multiple batches of chickens, keeping hens and raising up roosters on grass till they are about 20 weeks old and then eating them.  There are 5 current half breeds that must die, probably within the next three days and I will make a HUGE batch of broth to can and put up…plus there is all the eating of the chicken soup and the chicken and dumplings and the chicken salad and chicken fajitas etc…

Most of our days for now though involve schoolwork and more schoolwork…and so much schooling leaves little time for a blog unfortunately.  The state required standardized testing for home-schooled children is on April 1st this year, and this year will be Matthew’s first year in the testing, he is in kindergarten.  So, everyone has been brushing up on all that they know, tying up loose ends, taking mock tests for practice and reviewing test taking strategies.  I have no doubt that they will ALL pass the test, right now it’s just a matter of maximizing one’s score.  As something fun, Nathan has been doing weekly trivia games with the three older boys, giving them buzzers to press and keeping score, almost like a game show, they all really enjoy it too!  But I must honest, I am very much looking forward to the test being done and over with and then it will be like summer break for the children and we can all give more time and attention to the garden and being outdoors in the warm sunshine.

Thank God there is finally light at the end of this dark winter tunnel!

Sunday Salutations

sunrise

sunrise

We got 2 more inches of snow overnight bringing our on the ground grand total to about 10 inches now.  According to our thermometer on our side porch we hit an overnight low of 4 degrees, but tonight it’s supposedly going to be only 30 with more snow.  Thirty degrees seems like a dream compared to what we’ve been having, but then on Monday we’re right back to bitter cold with a predicted low of -5.

I must admit, this bitter cold has been really testing my resolve, almost like it was sent to do just that.  Even though it’s the extreme opposite weather-wise and we still do have electricity (although it flickers at times when the wind starts hitting the 30 MPH mark..) I keep being reminded of The Derecho 2012 when we lost electricity for 11 days and during that time we were assaulted by a heat wave with temperatures reaching the mid 90′s..which is HOT for our neck o’ the woods!  But it produces the same kind of feeling, that of being involved in a prolonged abnormal situation forcing us to enact new steps and stratagems to cope with it.

Our little cottage was originally built as a “dawdi haus” (meaning “grandparent’s house” and I use the Amish term because that is the only culture that has such a thing, that I am aware of at least..) The farmer who lives behind us on his black angus cattle farm used to own our land back in the 70′s and built this cottage for his mother to live in, after she passed away he sold it and the land it was on.  Now we live here.  It has thick wooden walls, but they are not insulated.  We have one of those super deep artisan mountain wells and we replaced the well pump a couple of years ago and the water comes into the house through plastic piping from underneath the house, the underneath of the house is really nothing more than a crawlspace and so our pipes, if not dripped, easily freeze at temperatures below 20 degrees…so, as you might have guessed, we been having to have the faucet drip nearly continuously because we haven’t had a day over 20 degrees in nearly a week!

There is also the care of the livestock.  We have our goats on a bi-yearly breeding cycle, they only have kids every other year, they had kids in 2012 so they will be bred again in the fall of 2014. Goats, if they are milked regularly, which means twice a day with not more than 16 hours between milkings (I have my goats on a 10/14 schedule, which means I milk them at around 8AM and then 10 hours later at around 6PM, and then 14 hours later at 8AM the next day..), will easily produce milk for 3 years from one kidding.  But the key is you have to milk them always and everyday, you cannot take a vacation just because the temperature is hovering around zero degrees.  So, everyday, between milking the goats and hauling hay bales to feed them fresh hay and hauling them fresh hot water and feeding the chickens and collecting eggs and hauling them fresh hot water, I have been spending about 1 1/2 hours a day in this frigid freaking cold weather!

This is what I mean when I say that my resolve is being tested.  Even though I may be freezing my ass off, I can not stop milking…raw milk sales are illegal in West Virginia so there is no other way for me to procure this precious resource for my children, I must milk!  There is no way around it or way to do without it.  My children have not gotten sick in over a year (I have not been sick in over 4 years) and I personally believe that it has everything to do with the raw milk which is so good for the body, especially the immune system…it is what keeps us super healthy and is, by far, the most precious resource that our homestead produces.

When you milk you do not move, other than your hands, but the rest of your body just sits there making it very easy to get very cold in a very short amount of time, especially when temperatures are so frigid.  Whenever I milk in temperatures that are below 20 degrees, I wear 3 layers of clothing.  My base layer for both top and bottom is Omni-wool 20% merino wool long underwear, over that I wear jean leggings and then my 96% wool pants (thrift store find) on top of all of that.  For the top portion of my body I wear a cashmere/wool/angora blend sweater (thrift store find) over my base layer of Omni-wool and then my 80% goose down insulated winter coat.  I have a wool hat that I wear and then my coat hood over that.  For socks I have two layers, a close fitting cotton sock followed by my heavy duty 85% merino wool socks, my snow boots are waterproof leather with 200 gram thinsulate insulation (which isn’t much but I got ‘em for 8 bucks in practically brand new condition from the thrift store, beggars can’t be choosers lol).  For gloves I have a pair of form fitting wool gloves without fingers so that I can milk comfortably, one hand holds that nice warm teat and milks while the other hand holds the jar of nice warm milk that I am milking into, so fortunately my hands never really get super cold….there is a silver lining to every cloud I suppose ;-)

We use the deep bedding method for out goats, which means that we let their bedding pile up in winter so that it is anywheres between 18 inches and 24 inches thick, essentially creating a giant compost pile that they live on top of…stick a thermometer in there and you will get a reading of close to 120 degrees in the center of the pile, this is from all the microbial activity and the heat that it puts off helps to keep my goats very toasty warm in their unheated goat shed.  All of our chickens are breeds that deal with the cold quite well, they don’t seem fazed in the least by this extreme cold and their egg production even went up to a dozen eggs a day now that the light is starting to noticeably increase.

One thing that I do not like is that the extreme cold seems to awaken some type of primal eating drive within me, I come back from being outdoors for an extended time and I am just SO HUNGRY!  It’s unbelievable the amount of food that I wish to consume because of this cold and it makes me want carbohydrates of all things! lol Steaming hot bowls of beef stew with thick slices of warm homemade bread smothered in butter!  Or nice hot bowls of oatmeal or biscuits and sausage gravy with eggs and bacon and it’s just unreal to me how hungry I have been.

The house has been most warm, we heat with a combo of kerosene heaters and wood and a few electric heaters scattered about, we’ve managed to keep it at a roasty toasty 72 degrees with little to minimal effort on our part, so fortunately that has not been a problem at all.  Just one more week of this and then January will be over… I don’t mention nearly often enough how much I hate January but I HATE January!..I do, I really really do.  We almost always inevitably get a warm up in February, so I just keep looking forward to that…and at this point even a few days of temps in the 40′s would seem like heaven! lol

A Short Story For You

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I wrote this when I was 15 years old.  10th grade English class, the teacher gave us an assignment to write a short story, I don’t fully remember the specifics of the assignment just that we had a week to do it.  She gave us that class day to begin our first draft and I knew exactly what to write about, about a dream I had had the night before where a man was swimming and flying at the same time.  I wrote out this whole story in a matter of about 45 minutes and turned it in at the end of class, I got an A too :D (btw this is in original form with just slight grammatical and wordage corrections here and there…)

The Race

I am walking down a deserted beach, for the most part, until they end, where I see a small crowd of people have gathered.  It looks as though they are going to have a race.

“They haven’t had a race in years,” I comment to myself.

Desiring to get a better look at the action, I slowly walk my way down the beach and towards the crowd.  Then they spot me.

“Look!”, they cry out, “Look!  It’s him, the great swimmer!”

I back away and start to deny it, but it’s already too late.

The announcer of the race calms the crowd and then proceeds to ask me why I don’t race anymore.

I just shrug my shoulders, not really caring to come up with a reason good enough to satisfy this crowd.

“Too old?”, I reply.

“Aww, no your not, you’re only 28.”

I would never have told him the real reason, that I wanted to end my career on a high note 8 years ago.

“C’mon,” says the announcer, “Why don’t you swim in this race, for old time’s sake?  Swimming across the Chesapeake Bay should be a lot easier than that stunt you pulled 8 years ago!”

The crowd begins to cheer and the announcer smiles ’cause he knows he’s got me, and he has.

“But I’m not ready to swim!” I protest, “I’m not even in condition!”

“It’ll be fun!” replies the announcer with a wink and smile as he pats me on the back.

The crowd begins to cheer my name, this has gotten too far out of hand.  So, I agree.

I remove my shoes, socks, shirt, roll up my pants and step into the water. They hand me a number, Two…a vaguely familiar number.

I swim out to where the other swimmers are waiting for the race to begin. “This is gonna be real bad..” I’m thinking to myself as I get down into position and I hear the call, and the shot of the gun…

My muscles ache and my heart pounds, it’s the only thing I hear.  I am lost in myself fighting fatigue and nausea.  I can see land ahead, “just 4 or 5 more miles” I think to myself, “I can make it.”

I set into rhythm, right over left, right over left, right over left, kick and kick.

I am a prune.  I have been in the water for over two months now, maybe closer to three now that I think about it.  This giant bathtub, my curse and my dream, and the death of me if if I don’t keep my mind on swimming.

I force it back to rhythm, right over left, right over left…I look up for a split second at the boats stopped just for me, just slightly to me left so as not to run me over.  I focus in on my supply boat, people on deck, my support crew, waiting for my body to give out.  I can just almost make out the pensive worried looks on their faces.

Suddenly my stomach churns, I stop to tread water, “Not again..” I mutter to myself.  I swallow hard and breath evenly, I don’t need this, not now, not when I am so close.  I swallow hard again and my head spins, I’m going to pass out.

All of a sudden, in the distance, I see something under the water swimming towards me.  It’s green like a large algae bloom, I blink in an attempt to clear my vision and then sitting in front of me is a huge frog. “What the..” but before I can finish, the frog very matter of factly says, “Hello” and then bobs back underneath the water disappearing from sight.

Very strange.

I quit treading water and begin my stroke again.  Try as I might, there is now no longer any denying that my body is giving out on me, my legs are numb and at times I have to glance behind me just to make sure that they are still there.  My head spins again and I unwillingly stop and tread water, as if beckoned by some unknown force I suddenly look up into the sky and I see, flying towards me, two perfectly white birds, doves.  They swoop down and stay aflight in front of me, like hummingbirds, hovering just a couple of feet above the surface of the water.

“We have come to help you” says the one.

“You can not do this on your own” says the other.

I instinctively begin to refuse, but then I think about it, I really do need the help.  I grab onto the birds and pull myself up out of the water, for their size they are very strong and sturdy little birds barely burdened by the weight of my body.  As they lift off slightly and my feet dangle just a few inches above the surface of the water two very large fish poke their heads up, just underneath my feet, and ask if they can help too.  I laugh and say “Sure, why not!”.  Each one gets underneath a foot and again, just like the doves, the are quite strong and sturdy, seemingly unhindered at all by the weight of my body.

The birds flap and the fish swim and I hear myself all the while…right over left, right over left, kick and kick, right over left, right over left…I am skiing and sailing, flying and floating, impossible.

I feel utterly weightless.  I am out of my body and out of my mind.  It feels like I am swimming, I know I am flying. My muscles still ache but it’s beautiful.  I am going faster than light now, this isn’t anything at all like swimming!

Higher I go, and coming up fast.  I can see the crowd on the beach..men, women, children, old people come to cheer me on.  I am above them all, looking down.  I watch the crowd watch a man, he has just reached shore and is staggering onto the beach removing his goggles.  Looking much like a drowned rat he collapses into a heap on the sand.  Paramedics rush to his side, quickly picking him up and putting him on a stretcher, drying him off and checking his vitals.  He looks delirious and very weary, but the grin on his face is unmistakable.

The one dove taps me on the shoulder, his eyes full of kindness, he speaks thoughtfully, “We have to go now.”

“No, not yet!” I plead.

“Our work here is done,” replies the bird.

As tears come unheeded streaming down my face, the doves fly off and the fish fall from the sky and back into the ocean.  And I feel myself fall, falling and falling, I drop through the layers of clouds and then open my eyes.

I see faces, a little girl, all of eight years, holding a bouquet of flowers out towards me, smiling her toothless grin.  I hear cheering and much commotion behind me.  I gaze around me and before me, my vision blurred by tears.  I look into the crowd and see a man dressed in a sharp-looking suit with well manicured hair and a microphone in his hand making his way towards me, pushing aside a cheering bystander he stands beside my stretcher, microphone outstretched, another man holding a camera and bright light bring up his rear.  He looks a me, square in the eyes, plastic smile plastered in place and in a clear voice he asks “So how does it feel to be the winner of the first ever trans-Atlantic swimming race?”  And I am back with myself.